LONDON/ZURICH Swiss group Adecco ADEN.VX, the world's biggest staffing company, declined to comment on speculation it may bid for British recruitment firm Hays (HAYS.L) but stressed its interest in smaller bolt-on deals.
An article in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper on Friday reported market rumors that Adecco could be lining up a 2.2 billion pound ($3.6 billion) or 160 pence-a-share cash bid for Hays.
"We cannot comment on speculation. What we can say is that bolt-on acquisitions are possible," said Adecco spokesman Stephan Howeg, adding that in the past bolt-ons had been around the 150 million euro ($219 million) mark.
A Hays spokesperson said it did not comment on market rumor or speculation.
Shares in Hays, which has a market value of about 1.5 billion pounds, were up 4.3 percent at 110.7 pence by 4:45 a.m. EDT having earlier risen as high as 111.3 pence and the top riser on the FTSE 250 midcap index .FTMC in London.
Shares in Adecco were 0.8 percent weaker at 54.2 Swiss francs.
"Hays has got the accountancy business and quite a strong presence in construction, so in terms of what Adecco has said it would like to buy in the past Hays does fit the bill. I just think that this might be slightly too big for it to absorb at the moment," Seymour Pierce analyst Kevin Lapwood said.
Another analyst, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters that while he thought Adecco could foot the bill for Hays, there were better alternative targets.
"Adecco tends to grow externally mainly in emerging markets and developing countries, or in professional staffing so I would not rule out Hays but for me it would not be the first target," he said.
Hays specializes in placing office workers such as accountants and secretaries and makes nearly two thirds of its business from outside the UK. In April it reported a 16 percent jump in net fees led by growth in Europe, South America and Asia.
Adecco, whose biggest markets are in France and North America, competes with Dutch group Randstad (RAND.AS) and U.S.-listed Manpower (MAN.N) and is worth around $12.2 billion.
(Editing by Paul Hoskins)